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Bob Mahaney, CEO of the Veridea Group, speaks with the Marquette City Commission on Monday about the proposed redevelopment of the former Marquette General Hospital property. Veridea Group has been appointed master developer of the project. (Diary photo by Christie Matric)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Municipal Commission will hold a public hearing on May 31 to consider a brownfields redevelopment plan for the former Marquette General Hospital property.

The commission held a special meeting Monday to set the date and hear a presentation and public comments about the project, which would be on a 23-acre site adjacent to Northern Michigan University.

In September, the NMU Foundation entered into a contract for the purchase and eventual sale of real estate with UP Health System-Marquette, a Duke LifePoint Hospital, to redevelop the former MGH site along College Avenue for the mutual benefit of NMU , the town of Marquette and local residents.

Establishing a brownfield plan is an important step in the process.

Brownfield plan approval will provide reimbursement for the costs of qualifying environmental and non-environmental brownfield activities, including environmental due diligence and environmental response activities; reduction of lead and asbestos; demolition; site preparation; infrastructure, including the reconstruction of College Avenue; and other public improvements to capture future tax increases generated by private investment.

The $44.6 million funding proposal per brownfield tax increase would last about 16 years, said Sean Hobbins, deputy town manager of Marquette, and bring in $4.1 million in tax revenue when the project will be completed. The town of Marquette would receive approximately $1.5 million.

David Nyberg, executive director of business engagement and economic development at NMU, said that in the event of the demolition of existing buildings, the “highest and best use” for a mixed-use development on the site that matches the Marquette character has an estimated price tag of $166 million, a figure that could change over time.

“Site preparation and demonstration is really the key hurdle moving forward,” Nyberg said.

Bob Mahaney, CEO of Veridea Group LLC, which has a location in Marquette, spoke about the project before the commission. Veridea was recently selected as lead developer for the project.

“There is a lot more due diligence and design work to do before we have the final or near final site plan,” said Mahney.

However, he gave insight into “Conceptually and strategically where we want to go.”

This includes housing for incoming NMU faculty, a multi-story rental building, a small commercial/professional storefront, senior housing, and possibly a performing arts center. The existing parking lot will also be repaired.

“One of the primary objectives was above all to respect the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Mahaney, who noted the project would have 300 housing units. “These are well-established neighborhoods, and whatever we did here, we wanted it to complement the surrounding neighborhoods to the east, south and west.”

Providing accessible housing is part of the plan, he said.

“One of the ways we do this is by having a wide range of housing and price options,” said Mahney.

Connectivity to the NMU and green spaces is also important, according to Mahaney.

Mahaney said it is hoped work on the periphery of the project will begin within three years. A timetable showed that construction would continue until 2030.

On Friday, NMUF unanimously chose Veridea Group to lead development. NMUF announced that its RFQ was released nationwide on March 11 and was open to developers until April 8. With 180 total downloads of the RFQ, he said Veridea Group had produced the only qualified response.

One of the resources of the project, the NMUF said in a press release, is a framework for a brownfield redevelopment plan, which would allow reimbursement of eligible expenses for demolition, infrastructure development and other activities through tax increment funding as well as additional investment in pending site demolition. all state and local approvals.

Motives questioned

NMU board member Mahaney resigned in 2021 from his position as NMUF board liaison to avoid a conflict of interest.

However, Jesse Bell, administrator of the NMUF board’s ad hoc committee responsible for the hospital’s redevelopment project, said Veridea meets the criteria for the project.

Marquette Town Commissioner Jenn Hill said she heard “literally dozens” public comments regarding trust “who decides and who benefits.”

“A lot of people have told me they’re worried that inside the process there are people who know they’re going to benefit from the process,” said Hill.

Bell said the tender solicitation process was public.

“We have no idea who will answer” Bell said. “We didn’t know if Veridea Group would respond. They have already said no to the project once.

Veridea backed out of a purchase agreement for the property in 2019 after her research found what she called “significant issues”.

Marquette resident Tony Boyle raised his concerns during public comment sessions.

Boyle said he had spoken about the issue before.

“It seemed like a shell game specifically to acquire this property for Veridea Group,” Boyle said. “And here we are. The song and dance happened and it went exactly as we all planned.

Boyle asked the commission to “pump the brakes” and not moving the project, which he said would not bring affordable housing, too quickly.

Paul Schloegel de Marquette, a former city commissioner, said he had confidence in the project.

“I just think it’s fabulous, and I haven’t seen any reason to think there hasn’t been transparency throughout this process,” says Schloegel.

Commissioner Fred Stonehouse is also in favor of the project.

“I want you to think about what would happen if we didn’t do this,” said Stonehouse. “We would have a rotting, collapsing building in the heart of our city.”

Mayor Jenna Smith called the project “transformational”.

“All arrows point to luck, and I appreciate those who have put in the time and energy to do this work thus far,” said Smith. “It was not an easy process.”

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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